What better way to usher in the hissingly hot dog days of summer, otherwise known as August, than with a high-wire verbal duel between CNN senior White House correspondent (and well-known cosmopolitan) Jim Acosta and White House sniper (and senior adviser) Stephen Miller.
The sniping began during a news conference on the same day President Donald Trump endorsed Senate Republicans’ plan to reform legal immigration from family-based to skill-based standards.
Reactions were swift, predictable and hysterical: Oh-my-god, who’s going to harvest the crops? This is so un-American! Trump is a bigot! More or less.
Acosta contributed to the latter lament by citing what he called Trump’s three issues: Muslims, Mexicans and media, all of which the president presumably dislikes — except when he’s in Saudi Arabia, Mexico or appearing on Fox “News.”
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Passions intensified when Acosta suggested Trump wants immigrants only from English-speaking regions, prompting Miller to accuse him of having a “cosmopolitan bias,” which seems like something one would like to have — or drink. Cosmopolitan means worldly, and what’s wrong with that?
As for Acosta, what could explain his extrapolation that merit equates to speaking English? One may infer that Trump is a bigot in certain instances, but not necessarily this one. Are there no reasons besides bigotry to prefer skilled workers?
Acosta’s accosting of Miller is why so many Americans see the media as biased. Let’s be honest: If Donald Trump discovered a cure for narcissism, no one would object if he used it first on himself, but most in the media would insist that the cure was further evidence that Trump is a narcissist.
To Acosta, the president’s bias in favor of English-speaking people is obvious and runs counter to the nation’s purpose as described in the poem on the Statue of Liberty welcoming the world’s tired, poor and huddled masses.
In 2017, we can’t welcome skilled workers, too?
Today’s wretched excess, if you will, is the consequence of the well-intentioned Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which gave preference to extended family members of people already here. Legal immigration increased from 296,697 annually in 1965 to more than 1 million today. Before the law, 70 percent of legal immigrants were from Europe and Canada, compared with 10 percent today.
Perhaps these statistics account for Acosta’s sense that Republicans want to keep Americans hablando ingles. But might there also be other reasons to prefer skilled workers, who would find jobs waiting to be filled, pay taxes and contribute to the rising tide that lifts all boats?
If such preferences are tantamount to bigotry, then others have been equally guilty, including Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy, as well as civil rights leader Rep. Barbara Jordan. As head of an immigration special task force, Jordan worried that opening the floodgates to unskilled workers would rob U.S. citizens of jobs and strain social services.
Kennedy, who in 1965 downplayed such concerns and supported the immigration bill, later changed his mind and pushed for skills-based reforms. But then-presidential candidate Barack Obama and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton opposed the idea because they couldn’t bear the thought that families (aka future Democratic voters) might be torn asunder.
The GOP has finally defined exactly which families they value, while Democrats have clarified their need for the needy. It would seem we have a draw.